Thursday, January 31, 2013

Notes on the Yorkton Debate

It would seem my own prophecy has come to fruition, as here we are about to talk about the Yorkton Debate before getting to some of the ones that have come before it.

The candidates were their usual selves this evening, as they continued to hammer home the key messages and "buzz words" that have been generated since the start of the campaign. A true moment of levity and uniqueness came from the financial appeal, during which an opportunity for word play and puns was employed. Linda Osachoff, took a wonderful try at incorporating all four candidates' names into a word play joke, and it really set a bar for humour for the rest of the night.

It was particularly amusing to see Ryan Meili repurpose one of my favourite puns (regarding a joke contest and ten submissions) during his opening statement, and I think we saw all of the candidates make a general effort to include more moments of levity throughout the night.

The questions were varied; as there were questions regarding concerns such as producer profits, health care and long term care, bullying, and increasing female and minority diversity in candidates.

I was a little surprised that housing wasn't mentioned prominently, given that Yorkton is another of Saskatchewan's "booming" communities and facing its own version of a housing crunch, both due to some shortages but primarily affordability.

One of the more interesting exchanges of the evening, which according to the questioners builds from the last debate, was Erin and Trent both asking Cam about his stance on the government's plan to reduce the corporate tax rate from 12 to 10%, and whether he would support a rollback to 12% if made Premier.

It was interesting to see two candidates carry the same question over to the same candidate; though ultimately, I think it gave Cam a chance to better define his position on the issue: which, effectively, is that any tax policy needs to be examined to ensure that it is the best move for the people of the province at the time. Cam was a little non-committal on whether or not it should be a focus for the province at this particular time, a follow up by Trent, though he did restate that the policy needs to be weighed by merit and outcomes.

The other interesting exchange, which I though really stood out, was Cam's question to Ryan about balancing the roles of MLA, Leader, and eventually (hopefully) Premier. Ryan stuck close to his campaign message of 9 + 1, and continued to rely on his example of Jack Layton serving outside the House of Commons.

Where it really got interesting, however, was Cam's follow up retort which called attention to Jack having prior campaign and government experience through being a city counsellor in Toronto and having that prior experience in elected office. Cam then segued into asking whether Ryan would commit to run win or lose after the leadership.

I think Ryan incorrectly chose not to offer a retort to the experience point; and to a degree, it was a landing blow given that Ryan has called on Jack's pedigree as leader from the day he entered the race. I imagine Team Meili will be working on a response to use in future debates should it be mentioned again, but for now it was (I think) a particularly interesting comment that really stood out this evening.

And while I wouldn't call it a knockout blow, I think it's one of the "swings" we've seen thrown during these debates that has actually landed.

For the most part, it was a good debate. Personally, I gleaned some insight over what sort of things we may see if the race goes beyond the first ballot (and there may be some editorializing speculation on that front in a few days time), but I think it also was a good debate for the candidates to really start to define some of the differences between the campaigns.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Campaign Update: General Posting

A quick moment to take a look at what the candidates have been up to and any major events that have come out in the last couple of weeks. I'm working on a post for the latest debate, though at this rate, I may have one for the Yorkton debate (which I will be at in person) before one for the Weyburn debate. Oh well, if it happens it happens and we'll do what we can to ensure that they're covered adequately.

We'll start with Cam Broten.

Cam received an endorsement from the United Steelworks District 3, which is the first major labour endorsement for Cam so far (though, I would note that a few other unions have contributed funds to Cam's campaign, so one could read that as an endorsement as well). In addition to picking up this endorsement, Cam also managed to get endorsed by Anne Blakeney, wife of former NDP Premier Allan Blakeney. Cam has also continued to move ahead with endorsements from various community figures, activists, and average citizens.

In keeping with the endorsement front, Ryan Meili picked up an endorsement from former leadership candidate and federal party candidate stalwart Nettie Wiebe. While Trent Wotherspoon secured the final MLA up for grabs by being endorsed by Buckley Belanger; bringing the final tally for caucus endorsers to: Cam 4 (Himself, Danielle Chartier, Cathy Sproule, Doyle Vermette), and Trent 3 (Himself, Warren McCall, Buckley Belanger). As noted in prior posts, interim leader John Nilson isn't likely to endorse a candidate, and David Forbes has remained neutral but actively donated to all four candidates.

Erin Weir has kept himself busy traveling across the province, with this past week finding him focusing on a 'northwest' tour (Meadow Lake, Lloydminster, North Battleford). Ryan Meili had an evening of music and entertainment in Regina, while also using the event to resign members and recruit new ones. Trent Wotherspoon was also in the Meadow Lake area this week, while Cam Broten also spent some time in Regina.

With earlier today being the deadline for membership in order to vote in the campaign, all of the campaigns have been actively reaching out to members to renew and to recruit new members (through both traditional mediums, such as letters, to well organized social media campaigns reminding members to get their memberships.) And while we haven't heard too much about the numbers, and I don't know if any of the campaigns will willingly admit how many memberships they've managed to sell, if the information comes out it should give us a good idea of who's a bit ahead in the ground game of the race.

All the candidates also had a chance to sit down and have a chat with everyone's FAVOURITE radio show host, John Gormley. I haven't had a chance to listen to these interviews, and not sure if I will find the time to be able to talk about them. However, I believe they can all be found online for those who wish to have a listen.

In one of the more unique developments in the campaign, Ryan's camp have put forward their iOS/Android phone app. Effectively a single source for keeping tabs on Ryan's campaign (it consolidates news releases, twitter feeds, facebook posts, planned events, etc, etc, etc) it's an interesting piece of technology and certainly something that is appreciated by people like me who are trying to keep atop everything.

Ryan's camp has also released some policy statements that we haven't had a chance to talk about here on the blog. We'll talk about the First Nations & Metis policy, and the Justice policy once I've had a bit more time to take a closer look at them.

Either way, we're getting pretty close to the final all candidate's debate in February, and then it's just a stone's throw to the convention in March. And so far, the campaigns seem to have kept themselves on track, and now we just have to wait and see what the campaigns have in store for the final months.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Some Notes on the Rosetown Debate

Video Link: LINK

As promised, the party has put up the video link for the Rosetown debate, so we're going to talk a little about it. As pointed out during the debate this debate took place in a rural area of Saskatchewan, as such the bulk of the conversation focused on rural issues that we haven't heard a lot about thus far in the campaign.

In continuing with our last post related to a debate, I don't think we'll be doing individual profiles for the candidates with regards to this debate. For the most part, I thought the candidates showed that they have a good grasp of issues that concern rural voters; and each is more than willing to put in the work needed to repair relationships in rural areas across the province.

Now, since I don't have a desire to recap a video that everyone can watch, I think we'll focus a bit on some of the larger areas of discussion that came up during the debate and the more memorable moments.

Since the candidates stayed pretty close to their backgrounders and policy announcements, I don't think we need to worry too much about repeating what was said with regards to questions from the audience. If anyone is truly interested in hearing those responses, I high recommend watching the full video or checking out the campaign websites to find specific answers.

For the most part, I don't see this debate as a real game changer (so it is much in line with the other debates up until this point). There were a few exchanges that stood out; such as Erin and Ryan's exchange during the candidate questions regarding abortion, and Erin's accusation of Trent volunteering for another party back in the 2004 federal election. I also think Cam and Trent's exchange on land ownership stood out, and might perhaps highlight some different approaches between the two MLA candidates.

Ultimately, I think it was pretty much in line with the other debates that we've seen up until this point. The opening and closing statements were good moments for the candidates to highlight some of their 'front-line' policy announcements, as well as to sneak in some of the campaign buzzwords and phrases that have come to define the central message of their campaigns.

They all handled the questions fairly aptly, with no one really dropping the ball on any issue or having any real difficultly addressing any of the questions. Again, to repeat from above, I think the candidates did a good job highlighting their familiarity and concern with rural issues in the province, and they all showed a dedication to rebuilding not just the party but connections in rural Saskatchewan.

It was good to hear more about rural issues, and some more specifics on things such as foreign land ownership, and I think we've seen some tremendous strength from all of the candidates when it comes to addressing concerns and issues that exist in rural Saskatchewan.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Campaign Update: December's Financials

 Financial Reports: LINK

Another month in the leadership campaign down means another chance to take a look at some financial report numbers.

Obviously, the big story coming out of the most recent pack of numbers is the tremendous month that Ryan Meili's campaign had for December. Ryan has consistently led the pack in terms of the amount taken in, but his campaign has outdone themselves by raising a whopping $29,548.45 in the month of December. In addition to setting a record amount in the leadership this far, this performance has also allowed Team Meili to slide into the position of campaign with the most cash on hand after expenditures; a title that was previously held in the previous months by Cam Broten.

So, after the expenditures we can take a closer look at where the campaigns stand financially. As stated, Ryan's camp has the most cash on hand with $28,456.29 after expenditures. They're followed by Cam with $15,347.76 on hand; then Erin with $7,293.97; and Trent rounds out the pack, still suffering from his first month deficit spending, with negative $2,952.56.

What's also interesting is to take a look at how fundraising has changed from month to month. For example, while Trent may be in a deficit position, he and Ryan were the only two candidates to increase their fundraising take from the previous month. Ryan raised $17,500.63 more in December, while Trent also increased his take by $852.38.

At the same time, Cam and Erin saw decreases in the amounts raised for December than what they were in November. Erin saw a drop of $1,629, while Cam saw a drop of $8,367.65.

As I've stated before on the blog, it's hard to draw a clear picture from fundraising to translate into direct support (and there's other factors to consider), but I think we can take one clear takeaway from December's numbers: And that is the strength in Ryan's campaign organization. There were murmurs about Ryan's campaign infrastructure, and whether his political machine was still in peak condition after the last leadership, and I think this month clearly shows that the machine is alive and well.

However, it is premature to start writing any leadership hopeful obituaries, as it is the smaller stories behind the larger one that show that this race is still far from over. I think as it stands, each candidate has a place of strength in terms of their fundraising (whether that is cash on hand, or the perceived ability to increase cash on hand).

Monday, January 14, 2013

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

Ryan's Website: LINK
Gender Equality Policy: LINK

I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things, particularly the Rosetown Debate discussion, but we'll have to wait for the party to place it online so that I can give it a watch first. Until then, we'll keep our focus on the campaign camps, particularly looking at the latest news out of the Meili Camp.

In addition to release a gender equality policy, Ryan also picked up an endorsement from Manitoba MP Niki Ashton. Now, we've talked a bit about endorsements and the role they play here on the blog, so there's not too much to talk about on that front. What I can say, however, is that I am a bit surprised to see federal politicians wading into the provincial leadership. I'm not condemning the move, just surprised by it, though I do think that it will tend to make little difference in the grand scheme of things; after all, as we stated, endorsements tend to be little more than glowing references, ultimately it is up to the people/membership to listen to those endorsements or not.

As stated, Ryan's campaign has released their gender equality policy, so let's have a closer look at that.

It's interesting that in 2013, we would still be talking about an issue as fundamental as gender equality. I think most people have incorrectly assumed that this is an issue that has long since been settled, which is why it's good to see a campaign call direct attention to it.

The first plank of Ryan's policy focuses on human rights. This approach is to curb gender-related violence through social, legal and educational initiatives. Ryan's plan calls for increasing legal literacy in the community to strengthen social empowerment of women and other marginalized groups; a push for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women; adding gender identity to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code; providing stable funding to groups that assist individuals affected by violence; provide mandatory and consistent anti-oppression training to criminal justice workers, including judges, police, prosecutors, and others.

The second plank of Ryan's policy focuses on poverty reduction and opportunity. This approach is to ensure that gender-disparity in the workplace is addressed and ensure equal access to quality jobs. Ryan's plan calls for every budget and program to be analyzed through a gender lens to ensure the interests of women and principles of economic equality are reflected, this is also to be done with respect to marginalized groups specifically First Nations and Métis; diversify the Saskatchewan economy through programs designed to enhance employment opportunities for women; introduce pay equality legislation that applies to all people; top up paid maternity leave, similar to Quebec, to 70% of the first 18 weeks of maternity leave, 8 weeks of parental leave, and 5 weeks of paternity leave.

The third plank of Ryan's policy focuses on education. Ryan's plan calls for prioritizing lower tuition, child care for students, and flexible student loans with a larger forgivable portion; increase incentives and scholarships to encourage girls and women to excel in science and technology, and to overcome glass ceilings in academic achievement; develop an integrated childhood education program and care to allow more women to pursue educational and career opportunities, resulting in an increased labour force participation and decreasing poverty among women and single parents.

The fourth plank of Ryan's policy focuses on health care. Ryan's plan calls for developing and implementing gender-sensitive training for health professionals in early recognition and support for survivors of violence and sexual assault, particularly for First Nations and Métis women, women with disabilities, and immigrant and refugee women; for women in remote and rural areas, create incentives to recruit and retain physicians, provide subsidies for patient travel, and increase safe houses and shelters for women; including women's voices in the discussion of policy and shaping of mental health resources in the province; develop community initiatives to encourage senior women to be more active by providing accessible low-cost community based activities, while also providing greater respite and support programs for caregivers; design, plan and implement culturally appropriate programs for immigrant and refugee women's health, improve access of interpretation services, and maintain programs for refugee health despite federal cuts.

The final plank of Ryan's plan focuses on political and institutional participation. Ryan's plan calls for expanding the 'candidate school' to reach out to potential nominees and provide mentorship to potential female candidates, while also hiring a recruiter from the SNDW to help with the process; adopt the federal party's equity candidate rule during nominations; ensure the legislature is a welcoming place, by increasing access to childcare, child friendly meeting places, retreats and skill-building courses, and anti-oppression training for all members; creating a positive space for women to be included in the party, and the development of legislation that is important to women across the province.

Out of all the things announced in the policy, I think the entire first plank of Ryan's plan is what stands out the most. One of the failings of the past has been to not adequately address the institutionalized biases that exist with regards to equality and gender roles, and actively taking steps to ensure that those biases are directly addressed is a good step in actually achieving headway in changing the institutional mindset.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Campaign Update: Cam Broten

Well, now we get on with our regularly scheduled post.

On Thursday, Cam Broten hosted an evening event here in Saskatoon at Amigo's. The event was incredibly well attended, I struggled to keep an accurate count, but it's safe to say it was 50+; not to mention the fact that at some point it clearly became standing room only...

The event was fairly low key, with political speeches kept to a minimum, and I'll have more to say about that in a moment.

We'll start with one of the most interesting parts of the evening, and that comes care of Cathy Sproule (who also provided wonderful fiddle and keyboard entertainment with two other talented musicians for the event) who was responsible for introducing Cam.

During Cam's introduction, Cathy talked about how she came to the decision to support Cam for the leadership. She explained that she thought long and hard about the decision, and that ultimately it came down to the same sort of decision one makes when buying a new suit: It needs to be the right fit, the right cut, the right amount of buttons, and a rather well received line about it being wool from an organic lamb. The interesting part comes from the glimmer of other ways her endorsement could have gone, given her high praise of Ryan's book and the approach to politics contained within.

It's not uncommon for an endorser to admit they thought about the decision, but it is a little odd to heat actual name dropping of the other way they could have gone. So, if you believe in the multiverse theory, there's a world where she endorsed Ryan instead of Cam. However, in our reality, she has endorsed Cam and that comes back to her analogy of Cam being the collection of 'right' things needed.

She closed her introduction with a bit of a focus on Cam, and how he is a person who can reach out beyond just the base or "believers" in the party, and how he can talk to anyone regardless of their political stripes in an engaging and thoughtful way.

After that, Cam got up to speak. I have to say, Cam seemed to be the most at ease I've seen from him since the campaign started. He was jovial, and really managed to get across a lot of the traits that Cathy had highlighted in her introduction. As stated, the event was fairly low key, so Cam didn't spend a lot of time speaking to the crowd as a whole. For the small speech that he did give, he stayed mostly on his campaign's theme of getting the NDP house in order and launching into the next election from a place of strength. He talked a bit about his themes of making membership matter, of ensuring people are involved in the party through the policy process, electing more women, and of electing a leader that is principled and ready to lead from day one.

After Cam's speech, there was a brief Q & A section. As per usual, questions are BOLDED while answers are in normal formatting. Also, since I can only write so fast, the questions and answers are not verbatim.

Rural municipalities are running out of money; last year, we raised taxes by 20% and we can't do that again. SARM is telling us that the provincial government won't provide more money, and are suggesting instead that we borrow the money needed. With you as leader, what can we expect to address this situation?

We need the correct partnership between various levels of government, for starters. Part of the problem is that we've seen the Saskatchewan Party downshift debt and costs onto various organizations and municipalities in order to make their own financial picture look rosier. For example, with the University of Saskatchewan, we saw the government back out of funding for the health sciences building leaving the university to deal with these millions of dollars of shortfall. We need transparency, but we also need to improve our relationship with rural areas. When we come to government, we need the right relationship with municipalities and rural areas. But what we're also seeing is change in some of these areas. When this government was first elected, people seemed unwilling to come forward and speak out about these kinds of issues. That is changing and more and more people are starting to speak out, and that gives us a great opportunity to start these discussions.

What can you tell us about the Lethbridge Declaration?

It's a good conversation, that's starting at the Federal level about building the party's fortunes here on the Prairies. It's important to the leadership here as well, as we need to reach out to existing members and grow our support provincially. We need a leader who can welcome people into the party and facilitate helping people who want to have an impact in the party do so, and that's part of what the Lethbridge Declaration is trying to achieve.

I did say the Q & A section was brief, as those were the only two questions that were asked. As stated, the event was fairly low key, and there seemed to be a greater focus on the event being more about NDPers being together for an evening rather than it being a campaign event.

All in all, I think it was a good event for Cam's campaign; it felt more like a night out with friends than a political campaign event, and I think that sort of approach will serve the campaign well.

In Defense of Myself

Malcolm's Blog: LINK

As is bound to happen in the world of politics, every once in awhile you get into a bit of a disagreement here and there. As Malcolm noted in my comments section, he has left "miffed" response to my comments on Ryan Meili's plan to create a Faith and Social Justice Commission.

Now, I have left a response on Malcolm's blog as my rebuttal (his blog uses moderated comments, so it won't appear until it is approved by the moderator), but for the sake of posterity it is always good to have a record on one's own site as well. Foolishly, I submitted it before copying it, so I shall have to try to recreate the bulk of it from memory. My apologies to Malcolm if the comment and the post below do not match verbatim, and my assurances that it is not an attempt by me to try and straighten out my response that was originally left.

Firstly, allow me to take some offense to being called ignorant. I am indeed aware of the role that people of faith played in the CCF-NDP, and the social justice movement. I know that many of our leaders and people who have made positive change and strides in social justice have done so motivated from a place of faith, and I do not mean to make it sound as if people of faith have not contributed anything to our party's history.

Now I need to address the mention of abortion. Perhaps I wasn't as clear as I could have been in citing this as an example of 'issue voting'; the idea that people will decide whether or not to support a candidate or a party based on a single issue. I was not implying that all religious voters cast their ballot solely based on a party's stance on abortion, which you say I was, but rather it was a knee-jerk example that served the point.

I know religious people who do identify as pro-choice, and as such, a party's stance on abortion matters little to them. But at the same time, I've canvassed dozens of neighbourhoods and met various people who have liked things the NDP has done, who liked the party's platform on other issues, but refused to vote for us simply on the abortion issue alone. As such, I thought it was a good example of issue voting in practice. Again, I could have been clearer on this being an example, so we'll chalk that one up to my fault on being vague.

I think we both agree that religious individuals have played a role in our party's history, and indeed the history of the social justice movement, and that they continue to contribute to the discussion today. But the main argument of my post was that those religious individuals who place social justice above all else already stand with us.

Those who live the gospels and try to help their neighbours and make the world a little better stand with us already; we are not alienating potential allies.

The fact of the matter is that issue voting will shape a person's decision to support a party or not. Whether the issue is social (abortion, same-sex marriage, homelessness, etc), financial (taxes, infrastructure spending, etc), or Canadian staples (health care, etc) doesn't matter, because in the end people who judge a party by a single issue will always take offense to the NDP if our view doesn't align with theirs.

This is not to say that all religious people forgo the NDP as a potential choice; as there will be people motivated through social justice and who see that as the most important issue to vote for, but at the same time there will be people (religious or not) who will find another issue that they disagree with the party on and will make that the key factor for their lack of support.

I am not against having a discussion; but I think we've proven, as your history shows and as we both know in the NDP today, that people of faith motivated by social justice stand with us already. This discussion, regardless of how open, will not woo new voters who continue to vote on a single issue mentality. As such, you can understand (hopefully) the trepidation I have over a commission that could lead to us compromising one or two issues in order to finally sway those single-issue voters.

Ultimately, I think that we have the people who want to make social justice a reality on side; and individuals like yourself lead me to believe that is mostly correct, as you are a man of faith who cares about social justice and supports the NDP. We have people of faith in the party, we have always had people of faith in the party, and we will continue to have people of faith in the party.

I'm not hoodwinked by the far right, as I believe that some religious voters we will never reach as long as they vote by a single issue. If you want to get secular, look at business owners. Until the last election, the NDP had never really done press announcements in a small business with a small business owner calling on his community to vote for the NDP. Yet that's what happened in North Battleford, and it was due to our call to eliminate the small business tax.

We changed something about our platform, and changed a bit of the dynamic in our party. But we had to put something up to get those people there; and my concern is that to fully woo these single-issue voters, we will have to make the same compromises.

So, I'm not anti-religious voters; I'm anti-single-issue voters.

Now, looking at the post, I can see somethings in there that definitely weren't in the comment...But, I suppose we'll chalk that up to passion of the moment. As I stated in my comment, I hope that this gets us eye to eye on the issue and that we've cleared up some of the misconceptions and misinterpretations that came from my original post. If not, I'll be glad to continue to try and get us to that point.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Editorial Content: Endorsing Endorsements

Alright, let's see if I can't get this damnable post finally done in a manner I find acceptable for posting. This is an issue I've struggled with for awhile, if only because I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to say about endorsements.

We're all familiar with them, a person with some name recognition steps forward and says so and so is the best fit for political job at hand. We've seen it on leadership levels, but we've also seen it during nomination contests and other electoral contests, so for one reason or another endorsements continue to endure. As stated, I had some trouble with this post, namely regarding around what I wanted to say about endorsements.

I wasn't sure if I should be so flippant as to dismiss endorsements entirely; or whether there was a middle path that assigned greater weight to some endorsements over others...Either way, I think there are some things to say about endorsements, and the endorsement process, and that's hopefully what we'll get across with this post.

Firstly, let's get the semantics out of the way and simply talk about the endorsement itself. Much like a reference at the end of a resume, an endorsement is a personal statement of belief from one person regarding the capabilities and faith placed in a certain political candidate. Due to the nature of endorsements, unlike references, these people need not have worked together or even know each other on a level close enough to call one another friend; but, they are still impressive to receive throughout the course of a campaign.

For the most part, endorsements tend to come from former politicians of the same political stripes; even unsuccessful candidates can still carry a good amount of recognition and are often endorsers. Outside of that, you have institutional endorsements that come from organizations such as unions, or other non-governmental organizations (business, charities, etc [at least ones who inflict no harm from showing political intention]). 

Each endorsement carries it own weight, and whatever faith you put into it is dependent completely on the person who is interpreting the endorsement. For example, an endorsement from defeated candidate may create some name recognition buzz, but one does have to wonder how effective the endorsement of a defeated candidate (regardless of popularity) can be.

I fear that was flippant, so I want to clarify. I'm not saying that endorsements from defeated candidates mean nothing, rather I am saying that all endorsements have a level of "gravitas" that one can try and glean from the endorsement. What I am trying to say, is that endorsements by themselves are all fine and good; but in order to fully ascertain what sort of support an endorsement brings to a campaign, you have to look at the person/organization doing the endorsing.

Let's try and shape this into some context.

One of the first jobs a new leader has to do once elected is gain the support of his/her caucus. Now, obviously, the two sitting MLAs have a distinct advantage here over their two non-sitting opponents. Cam Broten, with himself included, has the support of 4 current NDP MLAs; while Trent Wotherspoon has the support of 2, with himself included.

The remaining 3 NDP MLAs, seem unlikely to come out in favour of anyone before the campaign is over. John Nilson, the interim leader, will certainly remain neutral; while David Forbes has also been fairly neutral in the campaign, as noted by the fact that he has made financial contributions of the same amount to all four campaigns. The only wild card is Buckley Belanger, who to the best of my knowledge, has not made any allusions to remaining neutral nor has he indicated which camp he is leaning towards either.

From this perspective, the two sitting MLAs have an inside track at being able to work with and keep caucus under control due to the levels of support they already enjoy from within the caucus. That is not to say that Ryan Meili  or Erin Weir would be incapable of working with the caucus, but rather it is more of a note that they will be working from the ground up to build a relationship that Cam and Trent already enjoy with their fellow caucus members.

As such, receiving endorsements from caucus members comes across as quite important. However, I would not say that receiving no endorsements from a sitting member reflects poorly on a campaign. I would add this because there is a level of partnership that occurs in caucus, which in turn makes it seem more likely that a caucus member would support one of their own as opposed to an outsider candidate. While that doesn't diminish the endorsement, I think it adds some needed perspective to the importance of an endorsement from within caucus.

So, to summarize that point, an endorsement from a caucus member adds the appearance of unity and the support of elected members being a certain candidate they would feel comfortable working with. At the same time, however, it is worth noting that out of a sense of loyalty and friendship caucus members might not reach out across the spectrum to a candidate who is not currently a caucus member.

This campaign has also seen a fair amount of out-of-province endorsements come in; and while it is heartening to see other provincial MLAs or out of province unions or professionals support a candidate, it probably does not generate the type of impact that one would hope. Unless said endorsers have extensive contacts within the province, to provide volunteer support and the like, it seems more of an effort in 'star marquee-ing' (a term I'll use here to mean putting a popular/familiar name into the mix for the sake of people just recognizing the name alone)... I do swear I'm not trying to diminish any endorsements that have come out during this campaign, but I am just trying to do my best to categorize them and in turn reflect on which endorsements will actually generate support levels.

Though I would note that an endorsement from a caucus member comes with some perks; primarily the perk of having an elected member and the political machine in their constituency that can translate into real supporters.

Sitting MLAs have won elections, and that is done through sheer hard work and an able volunteer force. Picking up an endorsement from caucus will likely avail a leadership candidate to these volunteers and can translate into active supporters. At the same time, however, I would caution that picking up an MLA's endorsement does not guarantee that their entire constituency that votes NDP will lock in step with their MLA and support a single candidate.

Which segues nicely to the next type of endorsement I want to talk about: The institutional endorsement. For the most part, in an NDP leadership race, refers to endorsements that come from union and labour organizations.

To the best of my knowledge, all of the current candidates have received some kind of assistance or endorsement from a union. Much like the example noted above, the problem with an endorsement from a union is that it is not a clear measure of support. While a union may have a few thousand members, it is those involved in the union leadership structure that endorse a candidate on behalf of the union. And while there may be encouragement for union members to support that specific candidate, there is still room for disagreement between the final choice of candidate.

But again, these kinds of endorsements come with the perk of added volunteer power and organization.

If anything, I think these two examples of endorsement effectively end in a wash. While it might generate some good news releases and add volunteer support and organization to a campaign, it doesn't necessarily translate directly into support.

Which brings me to the last two remaining types of endorsements.

The third type is the personal endorsement. This campaign has been pretty active in targeting single sourced endorsements from every day people; with all the campaigns doing fairly well in securing the endorsement of your average citizen. To a degree, these types of endorsements tend to be the more interesting ones to pay attention to.

I say that because these tend to come from the grassroots, and come from people who are active and dedicated within their communities as well as the party. These are the kind of people who are able to not just find volunteers, but who host functions, organize events, and do a fantastic job in fundraising for a campaign. These are the sort of 'bread and butter' endorsements that really do an accurate job in highlighting some degree of support and momentum for a campaign.

The last type of endorsement I want to talk about slightly contradicts a bit we've talked about prior...I referred to how out-of-province endorsements can come across simply as 'name dropping', which to a degree is what all endorsements essentially boil down to, but there is a certain class of endorsement which sort of rises above this fray and actually shows a large deal of support. I refer to endorsements from former party leaders, in both actually leading the party and those who were popular ministers and caucus members.

There are some former politicians who will always be remembered fondly within their past constituency; I know Clay Serby, for example in my hometown of Yorkton, is always spoken of with high regard and is the kind of person whose word carries a fair amount of weight. There are former politicians throughout Saskatchewan who exist in a similar fashion, and although they may be out of politics they still have the ability to inspire their a large amount of their community towards a single candidate.

The same can be said for former Premiers and Party Leaders. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, if we woke up tomorrow and Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert had both endorsed the same candidate, there would be a sense of finality to the entire leadership race. These were men who left their own unique stamp on the Saskatchewan NDP brand and who left office well regarded; these are both the sort of endorsements that could really be called 'game changers'.

The main reason why former Premiers and leaders have such sway is because of the respect that exists for them within the party. An undecided member who doesn't know which candidate to support, could simply support a candidate who received a glowing endorsement from a previous leader. And while it may not be the deciding factor for all undecided members, it certainly would sway a large number of them into a single camp.

So, how do we sum this up and what do we take away from this?

I think we can take away two key things from the endorsements that we've seen thus far in this leadership race.

Firstly, the number of endorsements is less important than the quality of the endorsements. While it might look good on paper to be the candidate with the most endorsements across the board, it doesn't necessarily guarantee the ability to translate those endorsements into solid support. While it looks good to have the most MLAs or former MLAs on board, if they can't translate their personal endorsement into support from their own constituencies, the endorsement really hasn't made that much of an impact.

Secondly, when all is said and done, there are only a handful of endorsements that truly can influence the outcome of the race. We've heard numerous politicians say that the only poll that matters is the one on election day, and that is true in a leadership race as well. Having the most personal endorsements might not be front page news, but having that groundswell of grassroots support can only be a good thing.

Furthermore, outside of personal endorsements, the endorsements of truly 'revered' (for lack of a better word) party members and leaders ultimately would do more than a handful of endorsements from other less known members. As I said above, if Roy Romanow or Lorne Calvert suddenly endorsed someone the race would change dramatically.

Ultimately, I think we can say that what needs to be done is to lessen our focus on endorsements and treat them like what they are: References. The majority of endorsements are only going to stand on their own as a personal belief in the character and vision of the candidate being endorsed, rather than something we can use to try and determine support levels. There are rare occasions when this is no longer true, but for the most part endorsements simply serve as the references the people need to determine which candidate is best for the job. 

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

Ryan's Website: LINK

As promised, we're now going to take a look at Ryan Meili's recently released policy platform with regards to Housing. Ryan's campaign is also working on a First Nations & Metis policy platform, which we will talk about when it is released in full.

But now to Housing. Beyond a doubt, housing is one of the biggest problems facing the province at the moment and it's one of those issues that the government seems to be dragging their feet on.It's a staple for the candidates to talk about during the debates that have taken place, and no doubt it will continue to be an issue that is talked about across the province.

As such, the Meili campaign has put forward their vision for a housing strategy in Saskatchewan. The first part of the plan revolves around the principles that should guide a housing strategy within the province.

The first plank of Ryan's plan revolves around collaboration on building a ten year affordable housing strategy. Ryan points to the fact that Canada lacks a housing strategy as a whole, and that we should work with the other provinces (and the Federal Government, if they can be bothered to help under the Harper Conservatives) and work with as many partners (other provinces, non-governmental organizations, First Nations & Metis, builders, business leaders, etc) to develop a housing strategy that impacts the province, reserve, and Northern communities.

The second plank of Ryan's plan revolves around addressing the housing continuum. Ryan calls attention to the Wall Government's failure to focus on the entire housing continuum, instead putting a singular focus on entry home ownership; and instead, suggests that work be done to ensure that we are addressing a movement in securing housing: from homelessness to renting, and then from renting to owning. The plan also calls for ensuring a movement from social assistance to employment as well, while also calling for a strategy to ensure a stock of affordable rental units.

The third plank of Ryan's plan revolves around measuring progress and ensuring accountability. Ryan points to Saskatoon's strategy of increasing rental units in the city by 500 per year, and how having a clear goal allows the city and builders and NGOs a clear target and the ways to achieve it. Ryan also points to the Wall Government's cuts in selling off affordable housing, and how this places people into substandard housing which in turn generates other problems.

The final plank (in the principles category) speaks more about those other problems mentioned above. Ryan's plan states that housing creates advantages, while lack of housing creating disadvantages. By making these investments, which may seem costly at first, we can recoup that investment through the positives that housing generates (in terms of decrease health costs, justice costs, and social spending costs.)

It is with those principles in mind that Ryan's plan shifts towards the goals that his plan hopes to achieve.

The first is a ten-year plan to end homelessness. Drawing on the example of the Alberta model, Ryan points to the Housing First strategy and the benefits that it has created within Alberta. 92% of those helped under the system remain within their home, emergency room visits are down 40%, and calls to police are also down 40%. Ryan is quick to note that leadership on this issue must come from the provincial government if it is to be truly effective, and that with that leadership homelessness could be ended within the province in 10 years.

The second is to preserve and improve the housing we already have. Ryan's plan calls for the establishment of a housing energy and safety retrofit plan; stopping the sell-off of Sask Housing rentals and slowing down condo conversation rates; establish a solar power retrofit program.

The third is to build more affordable housing. Ryan points out that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has suggested governments earmark 15% of all new housing as low-income/affordable housing to keep up with demand; Saskatchewan has averaged 6,000 housing starts per year and this 15% model would mean 900 units built per year with a focus on affordability.

The fourth is to make new housing more affordable and of better quality. Ryan's plan calls for innovation to maximize investment, focusing on a Manitoba model that builds single person dwellings that contain necessities with a smaller square footage or the idea of design competitions to enhance innovation; promotion of inclusionary zoning for new neighbourhoods, ensuring that affordable housing can be found in old and new neighbourhoods.

The fifth is to put a greater emphasis on housing co-ops. Ryan notes that the housing co-op model was successful in earlier decades, but has since fallen to the wayside in terms of new buildings.

The sixth is to rethink seniors' housing for the next generation. Ryan's plan draws again on the co-op model to limit risk and create a community for those leaving single-dwelling units, and calls for the province to start to think of new ways to to promote affordable and home-based alternatives for seniors.

The final is to establish a centre of excellence for building in extreme climates. Ryan's plan calls for us to reconsider the way we build housing in the province to ensure that we are not encouraging designs that promote energy inefficiency; with the goal to be buildings that stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter with minimal energy input.

As per usual, this is the part where I focus on the idea that stands out the most from those proposed. Without a doubt, I think the Centre of Excellence for Building in Extreme Climates is that idea. We have heard a lot about retrofits and renovations that make the goal energy efficiency, so it's nice to see a ground-up proposal that calls for a focus on such things when building new units in the first place. It's a good common sense proposal, and one that I think has a lot of potential to become a major talking point in the campaign.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Campaign Update: General Overview

Well, now that we've entered 2013 to the best of our abilities, I think it's high time we got the blog rolling again.

As promised, we will take a closer look at the most recent policy proposals brought forward by Ryan Meili, but for now we will take a greater overview with regards to all of the campaigns.

We'll start with Cam Broten.

In addition to picking up a few more endorsements, notably from former Speaker of the Legislative Assembly John Brockelbank, Cam's campaign has planned a Pub Night here in Saskatoon on the 10th. The pub night is taking place at community favourite haunt, Amigos, starting at 7pm. I'm planning to be in attendance, and hopefully life stays out of the way to permit it, and hopefully we'll have some things to talk about afterwards.

Moving on to Erin Weir.

Erin's campaign has spent the first part of 2013 calling attention to Erin's work on provincial and national employment numbers (through a variety of news sources which include snippets from Erin, they can be found here: Star Phoenix, CBC, Toronto Star), continuing the campaign's trend of being the rabble-rouser to the governments currently in power. 

Next to Trent Wotherspoon.

Trent spent the latter half of 2012 by continuing to hit the roads and visit as many communities throughout the province as he could. Trent's campaign seemed to focus this leg of the journey on the Northwest corner of the province, including stops in Meadow Lake and North Battleford. Trent also had the chance to meet with the province's Treaty Commissioner. 

Finally, a bit on Ryan Meili,

Ryan's campaign has released some more campaign proposals, focusing housing and a First Nations & Metis policy being worked on, which we will look at closer in the next set of posts. In addition to that, Ryan is keeping a busy schedule in January with quite a few events. From a French-centric event in Saskatoon on the 11th, a Music based fundraiser on the 20th also in Saskatoon, and a membership push event in Regina on the 22nd. 

And of course, there are 5 scheduled party debate and forums throughout the month as well. The first takes place in Rosetown on the 12th; then Weyburn on the 19th; a Brunch and Open House hosted by the party's Rainbow Pride wing on the 20th in Regina; a Battlefords debate on the 24th; and the final debate of the month will be in Yorkton on the 31st. 

All in all, it's looking like a busy month, and hopefully that translates into lots for us to talk about here on the blog.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Quick Update

Still getting back in the swing of things after the holiday season; we should see some new posts this week, focusing a bit on some of the latest news from the campaigns, as well as the most recent campaign announcements put forward by Ryan Meili.

We're also still working on that damnable editorial content position on endorsements; which may not appear this week, but I assure you the other things will.